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Tag Archives: university
Posted: July 21, 2016 at 2:11 am
strategic philosopher Max More
Dr. Max More is an internationally acclaimed strategic futurist who writes, speaks, and organizes events about the fundamental challenges of emerging technologies. Max is concerned that our rapidly developing technological capabilities are racing far ahead of our standard ways of thinking about future possibilities. His work aims to improve our ability to anticipate, adapt to, and shape the future for the better.
In developing, communicating, and implementing better ways of foreseeing possible futures and of making decisions under growing uncertainty, Max takes a highly interdisciplinary approach. Drawing on philosophy, economics, cognitive and social psychology, management theory, and other fields, he develops solutions and strategies for minimizing the dangers of progress and maximizing the benefits.
Dr. More co-founded and until 2007acted as Chairman of Extropy Institute, a diverse network of innovative thinkers committed to creating solutions to enduring humanproblems. He authored the Principles of Extropy, which form the core of a transhumanist perspective. As a leading transhumanist thinker, Max strongly challenges traditional, limiting beliefs about the possibilities of our future. At the same time, he tempers visionary aims with analytical and practical strategizing.
As a writer, Max has authored dozens of articles and papers on topics including how to improve and apply critical and creative thinking, especially about uncertain future possibilities; the ethics of biotechnology and other technologies that directly affect humans; the philosophical implications of technological transformations of human nature; and strategic futures thinking in business. He recently wrote the Proactionary Principle, the latest of influential pieces that include “The Principles of Extropy”, and A Letter to Mother Nature. He is currently working on a book, tentatively titled Beyond Caution, that responds to resurgent neophobia with a spirited yet balanced defense of progress.
As a speaker, Max frequently lectures at conferences and companies, gives seminars, and engages in debates and panel discussions on issues surrounding the impact of emerging technologies. Known as a highly capable communicator, he is able to synthesize diverse areas of knowledge and communicate the results clearly and insightfully.
As an organizer, Max brings together a diverse range of thinkers, scientists, philosophers, artists, and entrepreneurs to examine technological and social trends and then form individual and organizational strategies for flourishing in a time of accelerated change.
As a consultant, Max (as part of the ManyWorlds team) works with companies and other organizations to improve strategic futures thinking and weave it into regular decision-making and innovation processes. This includes analyzing the interaction of technological trends, and developing strategic scenarios.
His academic background: Max has a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from St. Annes College, Oxford University (1984-87). He was awarded a Deans Fellowship in Philosophy in 1987 by the University of Southern California. Max studied and taught philosophy at USC with an emphasis on philosophy of mind, ethics, and personal identity, completing his Ph.D. in 1995, with a dissertation that examined issues including the nature of death, and what it is about each individual that continues despite great change over time.
He is currently writing a book on the forces driving us into the future and how to apply cognitive and strategic tools to improve our thinking about the resulting issues.
Born in January 1964 in Bristol, in the Southwest of England of half-English, half-Welsh ancestry. Married since 1996 to Natasha Vita-More. After living for 15 years in the Los Angeles area, Max moved to Austin, Texas in 2002.
At least since watching the Apollo 11 moon landing at the age of 5, Max has always been fascinated by the possibilities offered by technology for overcoming limits. He started a personal life extension regimen in his early teens, and created several publications to discuss ideas about space colonization, life extension, cognitive enhancement, and liberty. His deep interest in economics shifted increasingly to philosophy as he formulated a “big picture” of possible futures. At the age of 40, More has been writing about these ideas and organizing practical activity for over 20 years. Before moving to the USA in 1987, he incorporated the first biostasis organization in Britain, generating considerable media coverage. His doctoral work on personal identity analyzed the effects of technology on the self, and alternatives to current conceptions of death and identity.
Max More has become a widely recognized thinker on the philosophical and cultural implications of advanced, emerging, and future technologies. Echoing the words of his instructors throughout his education, reporters have noted his ability to explain clearly and persuasively radical and complex ideas. Jim McClellan, in his major 1995 Observer (UK newspaper) article, said: “The funny thing about Max is that while his ideas are wild, he argues them so calmly and rationally you find yourself being drawn in.”
Maxs ideas and background have been described in publications such as Wired (where Ed Regis described him as “the primary intellectual force behind Extropianism”) The Village Voice, Icon, Knowledge@Wharton, The L.A. Weekly, GQ (Britain), GQ (Spain), The New York Times Magazine, Focus, .net, and ct (Germany), the national UK newspapers The Observer, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times.
His ideas have been discussed in books including Gundolf Freyermuths Cyberland, Brian Alexanders Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion, Damien Brodericks The Spike, Chris Dewdneys Last Flesh, Mark Derys Escape Velocity, Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, by Rodney Brooks, Erik Daviss Techgnosis, among others.
Television and video appearances include a bioethics debate on Crossfire, two series on The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel, documentaries in France, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, Chile, and Belgium, the Terry Wogan Show (then Britains top talk show); CNNs Futurewatch; the CBS series Mysteries of the Millennium; several appearances on Breakthroughs: A Transcentury Update cable TV show; the documentaries New Edge and the theatrical release Synthetic Pleasures; and many other television and radio shows. Dr. Mores thinking has been discussed in a dozen books. He has also appeared in at least two novels, but continues to insist that he is a real person.
When not working, he may be found scuba diving, skiing, shooting, or in the gym weight-training or running, or at home playing with his cats Quark and Quasar and his dog Oscar.
AND? DON’T BE BASHFUL…
Marvin Minsky, the father of artificial intelligence, said of Dr. More: We have a dreadful shortage of people who know so much, can both think so boldly and clearly, and can express themselves so articulately. Carl Sagan was another such oneand (partly by paying the price of his life) managed to capture the public eye. But Sagan is gone and has not been replaced. I see Max as my candidate for that post. Ray Kurzweil, author, inventor, and winner of the Presidential Medal for innovation in technology said: Max More’s ideas are very influential among other “big thinkers,” who in turn are influence leaders themselves. Max’s writings represent well grounded science futurism, and reflect a sophisticated understanding of technology trends and how these trends are likely to develop during this coming century.
Max More: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Posted: July 16, 2016 at 11:05 pm
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According to Alan Loy McGinnis, there is no more noble occupation in the world than to assist another human being – to help someone succeed. Piers Anthony, the author of the book On a Pale Horse, seems to agree with that statement when he writes the book series called Incarnations of Immortality, of which On a Pale Horse is the first. This book is a fascinating work of fiction that relates science to magic and expresses that human beings might need a little more help than they expect…. [tags: Incarnations of Immortality, Mythology] :: 2 Works Cited 1327 words (3.8 pages) Strong Essays [preview] The Meaning of The Mind and Soul – Death and immortality Since the times of Plato and before, humans have pondered the existence of a soul and the afterlife. I am going to present my argument for the existence of a soul and the potential for surviving one’s physical death. For the purpose of my argument I will define that the meaning of the mind and soul are one and the same. The two main accepted views of the human condition are that of the physicalist and that of the dualist. The physicalist views the human condition in a purely physical state…. [tags: death, immortality, plato] :: 3 Works Cited 860 words (2.5 pages) Better Essays [preview] Free Essays – Immortality and the Epic of Gilgamesh – Immortality and the Epic of Gilgamesh Immortality – (a) the quality or state of being immortal. (b) never ending existence. Although that is the Webster definition of immortality, what is never-ending existence. That question has a different answer for everyone. Some people believe that never-ending existence happens by never physically dying, and others believe that immortality can be obtained through your children. I personally feel that your children cannot give you immortality nowadays because of all the influences outside of the home…. [tags: Epic Gilgamesh essays] 401 words (1.1 pages) FREE Essays [view] Discussion of D.Z. Phillips Conception of Immortality – Discussion of D.Z. Phillips Conception of Immortality In his book ‘Death and Immortality’, D Z Phillips starts by asking the question: does belief in immortality rest on a mistake. The first two chapters are negative in the sense that they examine traditional philosophical, as well as common sense, conceptions of what immortality means. Phillips argues that philosophical analyses centred on the notion of immortality have generally been constructed around certain essential presuppositions: presuppositions that assume some form of continuation of personal identity after death…. [tags: Papers] 1096 words (3.1 pages) Strong Essays [preview] Ode Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth – Ode Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth In Ode: Intimations of Immortality, William Wordsworth explores the moral development of man and the irreconcilable conflicts between innocence and experience, and youthfulness and maturity that develop. As the youth matures he moves farther away from the divinity of God and begins to be corruption by mankind. What Wordsworth wishes for is a return to his childhood innocence but with his new maturity and insight. This would allow him to experience divinity in its fullest sense: he would re-experience the celestial radiance of childhood as well as the reality of his present existence…. [tags: Papers] 832 words (2.4 pages) Better Essays [preview] The Immortality of the Soul – Plato has roused many readers with the work of a great philosopher by the name of Socrates. Through Plato, Socrates lived on generations after his time. A topic of Socrates that many will continue to discuss is the idea of an immortal soul. Although there are various works and dialogues about this topic it is found to be best explained in The Phaedo. It is fair to say that the mind may wonder when one dies what exactly happens to the beloved soul, the giver of life often thought of as the very essence of life does it live on beyond the body, or does it die with it…. [tags: Philosophy ] :: 3 Works Cited 1430 words (4.1 pages) Powerful Essays [preview] Epic of Gilgamesh Essay – Desperate Search for Immortality – Desperate Search for Immortality in the Epic of Gilgamesh The search for immortality seems to be an obsession for many men and women all throughout history. In the Epic of Gilgamesh a man investigates the possibility of immortality following the saddening death of his friend, his brother Enkidu. That man, Gilgamesh, feeling the fear of the possibility of his own mortality which was before unrealized before the death of Enkidu, searches for a way to preserve himself. Is it truly that Gilgamesh searches for a physical immortality or more of a spiritual immortality…. 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In Western religions, the belief is founded in scriptural evidence, but for all religions the belief in life after death is the same: life after death has been promised to humans by an all powerful' There are many views of life after death in particular which have been much adhered to and much discussed by philosophers…. [tags: Papers] 1730 words (4.9 pages) Strong Essays [preview] Human Cloning Can Make Immortality a Reality – Congress, the president, foreign countries, political activists, companies, consumers, churches, ethicists, doctors, patients, and even scientists have entered the fervent debate on cloning. The March edition of the Life Extension Foundations (LEF) magazine vocally calls for American citizens to write to their Senators and stop an anti-cloning bill from passage through both Houses (See Figure 1.) 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[tags: Fairy Tale Children Story] :: 3 Works Cited 1877 words (5.4 pages) Term Papers [preview] The Immorality of Cloning – The Immorality of Cloning The cloning of animals and humans disregards the common ethics of the creation of humanity. Three types of cloning currently exist. There is therapeutic cloning, DNA cloning and reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning does not actually make a clone, it just makes stem cells. Stem cells are capable of becoming any type of cell that they are introduced to. For example, when a stem cell is introduced to a damaged heart, it transforms itself into a healthy heart cell. Even though stem cells might be very good for helping alleviate the pain of some diseases, the best use of stem cells is making embryos…. 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Roderigos opening lines to Iago in Act 1 Scene 1 take us to the very root of the problem: Tush. never tell me; I take it much unkindly That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this…. [tags: Othello essays] :: 3 Works Cited 1245 words (3.6 pages) Strong Essays [preview] Immorality of Human Nature Depicted in Golding’s Lord of the Flies – In Lord of the Flies, William Golding expresses the idea that humans are naturally immoral, and that people are moral only because of the pressures of civilization. He does this by writing about a group of boys, and their story of survival on an island. The civilized society they form quickly deteriorates into a savage tribe, showing that away from civilization and adults, the boys quickly deteriorate into the state man was millions of years ago. This tendency is shown most in Jack, who has an animalistic love of power, and Roger, who loves to kill for pleasure…. 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This is achieved by presenting the Duke, who has the most power in Vienna, as a moral hero, and conversely revealing the corruption of the powerless class through characters including Pompey, Mistress Overdone, and Barnadine. Through all this, Shakespeare uses Lord Angelo in Measure for Measure to show that immorality and corruption is innate in mankind…. [tags: Measure for Measure] :: 5 Works Cited 1566 words (4.5 pages) Powerful Essays [preview] Canterbury Tales Essay: Immorality and the Friar – Immorality and the Friar in The Canterbury Tales It is a sad commentary on the clergy that, in the Middle Ages, this class that was responsible for morality was often the class most marked by corruption. Few works of the times satirically highlight this phenomenon as well as The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucers “General Prologue” introduces us to a cast of clergy, or “Second Estate” folk, who range in nature from pious to corrupt. The Friar seems to be an excellent example of the corrupt nature of many low-level clergymen of the times- while his activities were not heretical or heinous, his behavior is certainly not in accord with the selfless moral teachings he is supp… [tags: Canterbury Tales Essays] 1087 words (3.1 pages) Strong Essays [preview] Right and Wrong in The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennesse Williams – Morality, defined as the beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior,(Morality) is the substructure of our integrity and the column of virtuousness. The opposite of this, immorality, is the corruption of ones being, becoming more wicked in nature. With morals, a person is held to a certain set of standards and demeanor, but if these morals were to become corrupted, a persons moral boundaries would crumble, leaving the person vulnerable to misguiding influences and allowing for a certain barbarous freedom to uproot the integrity and virtuousness a moral person upholds…. [tags: morality, immorality, corruption] :: 11 Works Cited 1909 words (5.5 pages) Term Papers [preview] The Use of Immorality in Order to Achieve Popular Rule – Throughout The Prince and The Discourses of Livy, Niccolo Machiavelli demonstrates multiple theories and advocacies as to why popular rule is important to the success of a state. Popular rule is a term that will be used to define an indirect way to govern the people of a state. In order to rule the masses, a leader must please the people or revolts will occur, causing mayhem and a lack of stability in ones state. 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Scott Fitzgerald many of the characters could not be classified as a truly moral, a person who exhibits goodness or correctness in their character and behavior. Nick Carraway is not moral by any means; he is responsible for an affair between two major characters, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. Jay Gatsby does show some moral qualities when he attempts to go back and rescue Myrtle after she had been hit by Daisy…. [tags: Grapes Wrath essays] 1200 words (3.4 pages) FREE Essays [view] The Occupy Protestors – Since the unemployment rate was high for a long period of time it began to make Americas wealth distribution even more unequal. In 2007, slightly before the recession, the top 1% wealthiests share of Americas total wealth was 24% (Gitlin 7). After the peak of the recession in 2011, the top 1%s share had ballooned to 40% and the bottom 80% of Americans owned less than 10% (Jordan 2). The 1%s wealth had jumped 16% in four years because of the loss of jobs by middle and lower class Americans (Gitlin 7)…. [tags: Unemployment Rate, Economy, Immorality] :: 15 Works Cited 1462 words (4.2 pages) Powerful Essays [preview] Macbeth: Changin in Morality – One of the most profound and disturbing themes in Shakespeares Macbeth involves the changing in morality. Macbeth had changed his whole outlook on life throughout the course of the book, ranging from being reluctant to kill a noble friend to doing anything to it takes to maintain his position as king. Macbeth is one of many famous tragic plays that Shakespeare had created. In comparing Macbeth to the others plays, the story is shorter and shows a lot of darkness in the world. Everything from death, dishonest inclination, deceit, sins, treachery and greed can be found in the book Macbeth…. [tags: William Shakespeare, tragic play, immorality] :: 5 Works Cited 1191 words (3.4 pages) Strong Essays [preview] Immorality In Television – Vulgarity in TelevisionIn the early years of television people where much more sensitive to what was said and took offense to any form of obscene language. Even in the movies it was unacceptable. However, for many the standard for the use of vulgar language has expanded. In many shows on television vulgar words are used way to often. In many cases unnecessarily. These words do not bother me in the least. However, there are many parents with young children who are offended by this. This would not such a big deal if only the shows that carried these vulgarities would be shown later at night, as they where for many years…. 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Posted: July 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm
Eugenics is a social and political philosophy. It tries to influence the way people choose to mate and raise children, with the aim of improving the human species.
Eugenics rests on some basic ideas. The first is that, in genetics, what is true of animals is also true of man. The characteristics of animals are passed on from one generation to the next in heredity, including mental characteristics. For example, the behaviour and mental characteristics of different breeds of dog differ, and all modern breeds are greatly changed from wolves. The breeding and genetics of farm animals show that if the parents of the next generation are chosen, then that affects what offspring are born.
Negative eugenics aims to cut out traits that lead to suffering, by limiting people with the traits from reproducing. Positive eugenics aims to produce more healthy and intelligent humans, by persuading people with those traits to have more children.p85 In the past, many ways were proposed for doing this, and even today eugenics means different things to different people. The idea of eugenics is controversial, because in the past it was sometimes used to justify discrimination and injustice against people who were thought to be genetically unhealthy or inferior.
Modern eugenics was first invented in 1865 by Sir Francis Galton, a British scientist who was the cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton believed that intelligence and talent were hereditary and were passed from parent to their children. Based on this, he thought that people could be bred to be smarter, just like animals were bred to be larger or smaller. Galton thought the best way to do this was to learn more about heredity, and also to tell people that they should only marry people who were smart and strong. Galton chose the name “Eugenics” because it was very similar to the Greek for “well born”.
Galton developed the idea of eugenics throughout his life. He understood the two types of eugenics, positive and negative eugenics. One problem, which critics brought up, is the difficulty of agreeing on who is a healthy person, genetically speaking, and who is an inferior person. Obviously, opinions might differ.
The rediscovery of the scientific work of Gregor Mendel in 1900 led to modern genetics, and an understanding of how heredity worked. Mendel himself experimented on peas, and found that many characteristics of the pea plants, such as their colour or their height, could be turned on and off through heredity like a switch. For example, his peas could be either yellow or green, one or the other.
When applied to humans, people thought this meant that human characteristics, like being smart or not, could be influenced by heredity.
Another line of thought goes like this. During their evolution, humans were subject to natural selection like any other form of life. On average, healthy and intelligent people had a better chance of reproducing. In modern civilisation, however, it often seems that this process does not apply. Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin had discussed this very point, with concern.p70 In countries where statistics were collected, those statistics showed that in many cases the poor had more children than the rich. Also, statistics showed that the total population of some great nations was declining.p73 One startling piece of information was produced by research directed by Karl Pearson, the Galton Professor of Eugenics at University College London, and the founder of the Department of Applied Statistics. The finding was that half of each succeeding generation was produced by no more than a quarter of the previous generation, and that quarter was “disproportionately located amongst the dregs of society”.p74
The evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley was also a supporter of eugenics. He used this argument several times:
The American historian of science Garland Allen commented: “The agricultural analogy appears over and over again as it did in the writings of many American eugenicists”.
Similarly, the American geneticist Charles Davenport was a lifelong promoter of eugenics, and wrote one of its first textbooks.Chapter 3 There is no doubt of the support given to eugenics by professional scientists of undoubted repute.
In the United States, eugenics became a very popular idea in the early 20th century. People thought it would cure society of all of its problems at the time, like crime and poverty, because they thought that all aspects of human behavior were probably hereditary. Very important scientists and politicians supported eugenics, and most thought it was a very progressive and scientific philosophy.
But some of those who led the eugenics movement used it to justify racism and prejudice. They used eugenics as an excuse to pass laws which to restrict immigration from countries that they did not like, saying that the people in them were genetically “unfit”. They also passed laws which said that people of different races could not get married to one another. Most importantly, they passed laws which said that people who were thought to have mental illness or mental disability could be sterilised against their will. Under these laws over 60,000 people were sterilised in the United States between 1907 and the 1970s.
Today we know that interpreting statistics of this type is a complex business, and that many of the studies published early in the 20th century have serious flaws. Nevertheless, what stopped the eugenics movement was not better science. It was the realization, after World War II, of the effects of Nazi policies on race in Germany and other countries occupied during the war. Such war crimes were not, of course, advocated by any eugenicist. All the same, there was a common theme. This theme was the growing interest in the rights of individuals as against the rights of the state.
With the end of the Second World War, forced sterilisation ended in Germany. It was continued in the United States until 1974. The main targets were at first those that were ill or that had some physical or mental disabilities. Later on, the focus shifted towards convicted criminals, as well as black people.
Only in 1985 was a law of the Swiss canton of Vaud abolished. This law allowed for the forced sterilisation of a certain group of people. It was replaced by a law on the national level, that tells under which circumstances people who are unable to consent, may be sterilised.
Though there are few people who openly advocate eugenics today, many people wonder what improvements in genetic technologies will mean in the future.
Genetic counselling exists, where parents can get information about their heredity and even prevent the birth of a child if it has a risk of hereditary illness. Some people do not think the issue is so clear, though, and wonder if genetic screening, genetic counselling, and birth control, are all just another type of eugenics. Some people wonder if it is bad because it infringes human dignity. Some people oppose eugenics and genetic counselling for religious reasons. The idea of eugenics is controversial today for these reasons.
Much of this concern is misplaced. Genetic counselling is not going to change the genetic composition of the human population to any noticeable extent. More relevant is the developing power to identify, and then to change directly, elements of the human genome (genetic engineering). This does have the potential to change the genetic structure of human populations.
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What is Darwinism- Summary
The debate between creationism and Darwinism is often depicted as a dispute between naive biblical literalists, who ignore the overwhelming evidence for evolution, and scientifically enlightened intellectuals. But this is a caricature that serves the purpose of helping to perpetuate a world view hostile to Christian faith: atheistic naturalism. The debate hinges on five key terms: creationism, evolution, science, religion, and truth. Instead of trying to Christianize evolution we ought instead to challenge the assumption that atheistic naturalism is true.
The popular television game show Jeopardy reverses the usual order of things. Instead of being asked a question to which they must supply the answer, contestants are given the answer and asked to provide the appropriate question. This format suggests an insight that is applicable to law, to science, and indeed to just about everything. More important than knowing all the answers is knowing what question is being asked.
That insight is the starting point for my inquiry into Darwinian evolution and its relationship to creation, because Darwinism is the answer to two very different kinds of questions. First, Darwinian theory tells us how a certain amount of diversity in life forms can develop once we have various types of complex living organisms already in existence. If a small population of birds happens to migrate to an isolated island, for example, a combination of inbreeding, mutation, and natural selection may cause this isolated population to develop different characteristics from those possessed by the ancestral population on the mainland. When the theory is understood in this limited sense, Darwinian evolution is uncontroversial and has no important philosophical or theological implications.
Evolutionary biologists are not content merely to explain how variation occurs within limits. They aspire to answer a much broader question how complex organisms like birds, flowers, and human beings came to exist at all. The Darwinian answer to this second question is that the creative force that produced complex plants and animals is essentially the same as the mechanism producing variations in flowers, insects, and domestic animals before our very eyes. In the words of Ernst Mayr, the dean of living Darwinists, Transspecific evolution [i.e., macroevolution] is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species.
Neo-Darwinian evolution in this broad sense is a philosophical doctrine so lacking in empirical support that Mayrs successor at Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould, in a reckless moment once pronounced it effectively dead. Yet neo-Darwinism is far from dead. On the contrary, it is continually proclaimed in textbooks and the media as unchallengeable fact. How does it happen that so many scientists and intellectuals, who pride themselves on their empiricism and open-mindedness, continue to accept an unempirical theory as scientific fact?
WHAT IS DARWINISM- DEFINING THE ISSUES
The answer to that question lies in the definition of five key terms creationism, evolution, science, religion, and truth. Once we understand how these words are used in evolutionary discourse, the continued ascendancy of neo-Darwinism will be no mystery, and we need no longer be deceived by claims that the theory is supported by overwhelming evidence. As we shall see, there are powerful vested interests in this area that thrive in the midst of ambiguity and confusion. Those who insist on defining terms precisely and using them consistently may find themselves regarded with suspicion and hostility, and even accused of being enemies of science.
The first word is creationism, which means simply a belief in creation. In Darwinist usage, which dominates not only popular and professional scientific literature but also the media, a creationist is a person who takes the creation account in the Book of Genesis as true in the most literal sense. The earth was created in a single week of six 24-hour days no more that 10,000 years ago; the major features of the geological record were produced by Noahs flood; and there have been no major innovations in the forms of life since the beginning. It is a major theme of Darwinist propaganda that the only persons who have any doubts about Darwinism are young-earth creationists of this sort, who are always portrayed as rejecting the clear and convincing evidence of science to preserve a religious prejudice. The implication is that citizens of modern society are faced with a choice that is really no choice at all. Either they reject science altogether and retreat to a premodern world view, or they believe everything the Darwinists tell them.
In a broader sense, however, a creationist is simply a person who believes in the existence of a creator who brought about the world and its living inhabitants for a purpose. Whether the process of creation took a single week or billions of years is relatively unimportant from a philosophical or theological standpoint. Creation by gradual processes over geological ages may create problems for biblical interpretation, but it creates none for the basic principle of theistic religion. Creation in this broad sense, according to a 1991 Gallup poll, is the creed of 87 percent of Americans. Is creation in this sense consistent with evolution?
The answer is no, when evolution is understood in the Darwinian sense. To Darwinists evolution means naturalistic evolution, an insistence that science must assume that the cosmos is a closed system of material causes and effects, which can never be influenced by anything outside of material nature, such as God. In the beginning, an explosion of matter created the cosmos, and undirected, naturalistic evolution produced everything that followed. Thus, no intelligent purpose guided evolution. If intelligence exists today, that is only because it has itself evolved through purposeless material processes.
At bottom the theory must be based on chance, because that is what is left when we have ruled out everything involving intelligence or purpose. But theories invoking only chance are not credible. One thing everyone acknowledges is that living organisms are enormously complex far more so than, say, a computer or an airplane. That such complex entities came into existence simply by chance is clearly less credible than that they were designed and constructed by a creator. To back up their claim that this appearance of intelligent design is an illusion, Darwinists therefore need to provide a building force that is mindless and purposeless. Natural selection is by far the most plausible candidate.
If we assume that random genetic mutations provided the new genetic information needed, say, to give a small mammal a start towards wings, and if we assume that each tiny step in the process of wing-building gave the animal an increased chance of survival, then natural selection ensured that the favored creatures would thrive and reproduce. It logically follows that wings can and will appear as if by the plan of a designer. Of course, if wings or other improvements do not appear, the theory explains their absence just as well. The needed mutations didnt arrive, or developmental constraints closed off certain possibilities, or natural selection favored something else. There is no requirement that any of this speculation be confirmed by either experimental or fossil evidence. To Darwinists just being able to imagine the process is sufficient to confirm that something like that must have happened.
Biologist Richard Dawkins calls the process of creation by mutation and selection the blind watchmaker, by which he means that a purposeless, materialistic designing force substitutes for the watchmaker deity of natural theology. The creative power of the blind watchmaker is supported only by very slight evidence, such as the famous example of a moth population in which the percentage of dark moths increased during a period when the birds were better able to see light moths against the smoke-darkened background trees. This may be taken to show that natural selection can change organisms, but not that it can create organisms that were not already in existence.
Even such slight evidence is more than sufficient, however, because evidence is not really necessary to prove something that is practically self-evident. The existence of a potent blind watchmaker follows deductively from the philosophical premise that nature had to do its own creating. There can be argument about the details, but if God was not in the picture something very much like Darwinism simply has to be true, regardless of the evidence.
That brings me to my third term, science. We have already seen that Darwinists assume as a first principle that the history of the cosmos and its life forms is fully explicable on naturalistic principles. This reflects a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, a necessary consequence of the inherent limitations of science. What scientific naturalism does, however, is transform the limitations of science into limitations on reality, in the interest of maximizing the explanatory power of science and its practitioners. It is, of course, entirely possible to study organisms scientifically on the premise that they were all created by God, just as scientists study airplanes and even works of art without denying that these objects are intelligently designed. The problem with allowing God a role in the history of life is not that science would cease, but rather that scientists would have to acknowledge the existence of something important that is outside the boundaries of natural science. For scientists who want to be able to explain everything, this is an intolerable possibility.
The second feature of scientific naturalism that is important for our purpose is its set of rules governing the criticism and replacement of a paradigm. A paradigm is a general theory, like the Darwinian theory of evolution, which has achieved general acceptance in the scientific community. The paradigm unifies the various specialties that make up the research community, and guides research in all of them. Thus, zoologists, botan-ists, geneticists, molecular biologists, and paleontologists all see their research as aimed at filling out the details of the Darwinian paradigm.
If molecular biologists see a pattern of apparently neutral mutations, which have no apparent effect on an organisms fitness, they must find a way to reconcile their findings with the paradigms requirement that natural selection guides evolution. This they can do by postulating a sufficient quantity of invisible adaptive mutations, supposedly accumulated by natural selection. Similarly, if paleontologists see new fossil species appearing suddenly in the fossil record, and remaining basically unchanged thereafter, they must perform whatever contortions are necessary to force this recalcitrant evidence into a model of incremental change through the accumulation of micromutations.
Supporting the paradigm may even require what in other contexts would be called deception. As Niles Eldredge candidly admitted, We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change], all the while knowing it does not.2 Eldredge explained that this pattern of misrepresentation occurred because of the certainty so characteristic of evolutionary ranks since the late 1940s, the utter assurance not only that natural selection operates in nature, but that we know precisely how it works. This certainty produced a degree of dogmatism that Eldredge says resulted in the relegation of paleontologists to the lunatic fringe who reported that they saw something out of kilter between contemporary evolutionary theory, on the one hand, and patterns of change in the fossil record on the other.3 Under the circumstances, prudent paleontologists understandably swallowed their doubts and supported the ruling ideology. To abandon the paradigm would be to abandon the scientific community; to ignore the paradigm and just gather the facts would be to earn the demeaning label of stamp collector (i.e., one who does not theorize).
As many philosophers of science have observed, the research community does not abandon a paradigm in the absence of a suitable replacement. This means that negative criticism of Darwinism, however devastating it may appear to be, is essentially irrelevant to the professional researchers. A critic may point out, for example, that the evidence that natural selection has any creative power is somewhere between weak and nonexistent. That is perfectly true, but to Darwinists the more important point is this: If natural selection did not do the creating, what did? God is obviously unacceptable, because such a being is unknown to science. We dont know is equally unacceptable, because to admit ignorance would be to leave science adrift without a guiding principle. To put the problem in the most practical terms: it is impossible to write or evaluate a grant proposal without a generally accepted theoretical framework.
The paradigm rule explains why Goulds acknowledgment that neo-Darwinism is effectively dead had no significant effect on the Darwinist faithful, or even on Gould himself. Gould made that statement in a paper predicting the emergence of a new general theory of evolution, one based on the macromutational speculations of the Berkeley geneticist Richard Goldschmidt.4 When the new theory did not arrive as anticipated, the alternatives were either to stick with Ernst Mayrs version of neo-Darwinism or to concede that biologists do not know of a naturalistic mechanism that can produce biological complexity. That was no choice at all. Gould had to beat a hasty retreat back to classical Darwinism to avoid giving aid and comfort to the enemies of scientific naturalism, including those disgusting creationists. Having to defend a dead theory tooth and nail can hardly be a satisfying activity, and it is no wonder that Gould lashes out with fury at people such as myself who call attention to his predicament.5 I do not mean to ridicule Gould, because I have a genuinely high regard for the man as one of the few Darwinists who has recognized the major problems with the theory and reported them honestly. His tragedy is that he cannot admit the clear implications of his own thought without effectively resigning from science.
The continuing survival of Darwinist orthodoxy illustrates Thomas Kuhns famous point that the accumulation of anomalies never in itself falsifies a paradigm, since to reject one paradigm without substituting another is to reject science itself.6 This practice may be appropriate as a way of carrying on the professional enterprise called science, but it can be grossly misleading when it is imposed on persons who are asking questions other than the ones scientific naturalists want to ask. Suppose, for example, that I want to know whether God really had something to do with creating living organisms. A typical Darwinian response is that there is no reason to invoke supernatural action because Darwinian selection was capable of performing the job. To evaluate that response, I need to know whether natural selection really has the fantastic creative power attributed to it. It is not a sufficient answer to say that scientists have nothing better to offer. The fact that scientists dont like to say we dont know tells me nothing about what they really do know.
I am not suggesting that scientists have to change their rules about retaining and discarding paradigms. All I want them to do is to be candid about the disconfirming evidence and admit, if it is the case, that they are hanging on to Darwinism only because they prefer a shaky theory to having no theory at all. What they insist on doing, however, is to present Darwinian evolution to the public as a fact that every rational person is expected to accept. If there are reasonable grounds to doubt the theory such dogmatism is ridiculous, whether or not the doubters have a better theory to propose.
To believers in creation, Darwinists seem thoroughly intolerant and dogmatic when they insist that their own philosophy must have a monopoly in the schools and the media. Darwinists do not see themselves that way, of course. On the contrary, they often feel aggrieved when creationists (in either the broad or narrow sense) ask to have their own arguments heard and considered. To insist that schoolchildren be taught that Darwinian evolution is a fact is in their minds merely to protect the integrity of science education; to present the other side of the case would be to allow fanatics to force their opinions on others. Even college professors have been forbidden to express their doubts about Darwinian evolution in the classroom, and it seems widely believed that the Constitution not only permits but actually requires such restrictions on academic freedom.7
To explain this bizarre situation, we must define our fourth term: religion. Suppose that a skeptic argues that evidence for biological creation by natural selection is obviously lacking, and that in the circumstances we ought to give serious consideration to the possibility that the development of life required some input from a preexisting, purposeful creator. To scientific naturalists this suggestion is creationist and therefore unacceptable in principle, because it invokes an entity unknown to science. What is worse, it suggests the possibility that this creator may have communicated in some way with humans, perhaps with real prophets persons with a genuine knowledge of God. Such persons could be dangerous rivals for the scientists as cultural authorities.
Naturalistic philosophy has worked out a strategy to prevent this problem from arising: it labels naturalism as science and theism as religion. The former is then classified as knowledge, and the latter as mere belief. The distinction is of critical importance, because only knowledge can be objectively valid for everyone; belief is valid only for the believer, and should never be passed off as knowledge. The student who thinks that 2 and 2 make 5, or that water is not made up of hydrogen and oxygen, or that the theory of evolution is not true, is not expressing a minority viewpoint. He or she is ignorant, and the job of education is to cure that ignorance and to replace it with knowledge. Thus, students in the public schools must be taught at an early age that evolution is a fact, and as time goes by they will gradually learn that evolution means naturalism.
The proposition that God was in any way involved in our creation is effectively outlawed, since naturalistic evolution is by definition in the category of scientific knowledge and what contradicts knowledge is implicitly false, or imaginary. That is why it is possible for scientific naturalists in good faith to claim on the one hand that their science says nothing about God, and on the other to claim that they have said everything that can be said about God. In naturalistic philosophy both propositions are at bottom the same. All that needs to be said about God is that there is nothing to be said of God, because on that subject we can have no knowledge.
Our fifth term is truth. Truth as such is not a particularly important concept in naturalistic philosophy. The reason for this is that truth suggests an unchanging absolute, whereas scientific knowledge is a dynamic concept. Like life, knowledge evolves and grows into superior forms. What was knowledge in the past is not knowledge today, and the knowledge of the future will surely be far superior to what we have now. Only naturalism itself, and the unique validity of science as the path to knowledge, are absolutes. There can be no criterion for truth outside of scientific knowledge, no mind of God to which we have access.
This way of understanding things persists even when scientific naturalists employ religious-sounding language. For example, the physicist Stephen Hawking ended his famous book A Brief History of Time with the prediction that humanity might one day know the mind of God. This phrasing gives some friends of mine the mistaken impression that he has some attraction to theism. In context, Hawking was not referring to a supernatural eternal agent, but to the possibility that scientific knowledge will eventually become complete and all-encompassing because it will have explained the movements of material particles in all circumstances.
The monopoly of science in the realm of knowledge explains why evolutionary biologists do not find it meaningful to address the question whether Darwinism is true. They will gladly concede that the theory is incomplete and that further research is needed. At any given point in time, however, the reigning theory of naturalistic evolution represents the state of scientific knowledge about how we came into existence. Scientific knowledge is by naturalistic definition the closest approximation of absolute truth available to us. To ask whether this knowledge is true is to miss the point, and to betray a misunderstanding of how science works.
WHAT IS DARWINISM- CHRISTIANS AND DARWINISM
So far I have described the metaphysical categories by which scientific naturalists have excluded the topic of God from rational discussion, and thus ensured that Darwinisms fully naturalistic creation story is effectively true by definition. There is no need to explain why atheists find this system of thought control congenial. What is more difficult to understand at least at first is the strong support Darwinism continues to receive in the Christian academic world. Attempts to investigate the credibility of Darwinist evolution are regarded with little enthusiasm by many leading Christian professors of science and philosophy, even at institutions that are generally regarded as theologically conservative. Given that Darwinism is inherently naturalistic and therefore antagonistic to the idea that God had anything to do with the history of life, and that it plays the central role in ensuring agnostic domination of the intellectual culture, one might have supposed that Christian intellectuals (along with religious Jews) would be eager to find its weak spots.
Instead, the prevailing view among Christian professors has been that Darwinism or evolution, as they tend to call it is unbeatable, and that it can be interpreted to be consistent with Christian belief. In fact Darwinism is unbeatable as long as one accepts the thought categories of scientific naturalism that I have been describing. The problem is that those same thought categories make Christian theism, or any other theism, absolutely untenable. If science has exclusive authority to tell us how life was created, and if science is committed to naturalism, and if science never discards a paradigm until it is presented with an acceptable naturalistic alternative, then Darwinisms position is impregnable within science. Yet the same reasoning that makes Darwinism inevitable also bans God from taking any action within the history of the Cosmos, which makes theism illusory. Theistic naturalism is self-contradictory.
Some hope to avoid the contradiction by asserting that naturalism rules only within the realm of science, and that there is a separate realm called religion in which theism can flourish. The problem with this, as we have already seen, is that in a naturalistic culture scientific conclusions are considered to be knowledge, or even fact. What is outside of fact is fantasy, or at best subjective belief. Theists who accommodate scientific naturalism therefore may never affirm that their God is real in the same sense that evolution is real. This rule is essential to the entire naturalistic mindset that produced Darwinism in the first place.
If God exists He could certainly work through scientifically explainable processes if that is what He wanted to do, but He could also create by some means totally outside the ken of our science. Once we put Him into the picture, there is no good reason to attribute the creation of biological complexity to random mutation and natural selection. Direct evidence that these mechanisms have substantial creative power is not to be found in nature, the laboratory, or the fossil record. An essential step in the reasoning that establishes that Darwinian selection created the wonders of biology, therefore, is that nothing else was available. Theism says that something else was available.
Perhaps the contradiction is hard to see when it is stated at an abstract level, so I will give a more concrete example. Persons who advocate the compromise position called theistic evolution are in my experience always vague about what they mean by evolution. They have good reason to be vague. As we have seen, Darwinian evolution is by definition unguided and purposeless, and such evolution cannot in any meaningful sense be theistic. For evolution to be genuinely theistic it must be guided by God, whether this means God programmed the process in advance or stepped in from time to time to push it in the right direction. To Darwinists evolution guided by God is a soft form of creationism that is to say, it is not evolution at all. To repeat, this understanding goes to the very heart of Darwinist thinking. Allow a preexisting supernatural intelligence to guide evolution, and this omnipotent being can do a whole lot more than that.
Of course, theists can think of evolution as God-guided whether naturalistic Darwinists like it or not. One problem with having a private definition for theists, however, is that the scientific naturalists have the power to decide what the term evolution means in public discourse, including the science classes in the public schools. If theistic evolutionists broadcast the message that evolution as they understand it is harmless to theistic religion, they are misleading their constituents unless they add a clear warning that the version of evolution advocated by the entire body of mainstream science is something else altogether. That warning is never clearly delivered, because the main point of theistic evolution is to preserve peace with the mainstream scientific community. Theistic evolutionists therefore unwittingly serve the purposes of the scientific naturalists by helping persuade the religious community to lower its guard against the incursion of naturalism.
We are now in a position to answer the question, What is Darwinism? Darwinism is a theory of empirical science only at the level of microevolution, where it provides a framework for explaining phenomena such as the diversity that arises when small populations become reproductively isolated from the main body of the species. As a general theory of biological creation Darwinism is not empirical at all. Rather, it is a necessary implication of a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, which is based on the nonscintific assumption that God was always absent from the realm of nature. Evolution in the Darwinian sense is inherently antithetical to theism, although evolution in some entirely different and nonnaturalistic sense could conceivably (if not demonstrably) have been Gods chosen method of creation.
To return to the game of Jeopardy with which we started, let us say that Darwinism is the answer. What, then, is the question? The question is: How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it? Theistic evolutionists err in trying to Christianize the answer to a question that comes straight out of the agenda of scientific naturalism. What we need to do instead is challenge the assumption that the only questions worth asking are the ones that assume that naturalism is true.Phillip E. Johnsonis Professor of Law at the University of California. He is the author of Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance, and also the forthcoming Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds (InterVarsity Press).
1This article was originally delivered as a lecture at a symposium at Hillsdale College in November 1992. Papers from the Symposium were published in the collection, Man and Creation: Perspectives on Science and Theology, ed. Michael Bauman (Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1993).2Niles Eldredge, Time Frames (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1986), 144.3Ibid., 93.4Stephen Jay Gould, Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging? Paleobiology 6 (1980): 119-30, reprinted in Maynard Smith, ed., Evolution Now: A Century after Darwin (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1982).5See Stephen Jay Gould, Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge, Scientific American, July 1992, 118-22. Scientific American refused to publish my response, but the response did appear in the March 1993 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith: The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation.6Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 79.7This issue is discussed in my article, What (If Anything) Hath God Wrought? at the web site (http://www.arn.org).
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Posted: at 1:55 am
Herbalism (also herbology or herbal medicine) is use of plants for medicinal purposes, and the study of botany for such use. Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through much of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine recognizes herbalism as a form of alternative medicine, as the practice of herbalism is not strictly based on evidence gathered using the scientific method. Modern medicine, does, however, make use of many plant-derived compounds as the basis for evidence-tested pharmaceutical drugs, phytotherapy, and phytochemistry works to apply modern standards of effectiveness testing to herbs and medicines that are derived from natural sources. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the use of medicinal plants dates at least to the Paleolithic, approximately 60,000 years ago. Written evidence of herbal remedies dates back over 5,000 years, to the Sumerians, who created lists of plants. A number of ancient cultures wrote about plants and their medical uses in books called herbals. In ancient Egypt, herbs are mentioned in Egyptian medical papyri, depicted in tomb illustrations, or on rare occasions found in medical jars containing trace amounts of herbs. Among the oldest, lengthiest, and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt is the Ebers Papyrus dating from about 1550 BC, and covering more than 700 drugs, mainly of plant origin. The earliest known Greek herbals were those of Theophrastus of Eresos who in the 4th c. B.C. wrote in Greek Historia Plantarum, of Diocles of Carystus who wrote during the 3rd century B.C, and of Krateuas who wrote in the 1st century B.C. Only a few fragments of these works have survived intact, but from what remains scholars have noted that there is a large amount of overlap with the Egyptian herbals. Seeds likely used for herbalism have been found in the archaeological sites of Bronze Age China dating from the Shang Dynasty. Over a hundred of the 224 drugs mentioned in the Huangdi Neijing, an early Chinese medical text, are herbs. Herbs were also common in the medicine of ancient India, where the principal treatment for diseases was diet.De Materia Medica, originally written in Greek, by Pedanius Dioscorides ( ; c. 40 90 AD) of Anazarbus, Cilicia, a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, is a particularly important example of such writings. The documentation of herbs and their uses was a central part of both Western and Eastern medical scholarship through to the 1600s, and these works played an important role in the development of the science of botany.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Pharmaceuticals are prohibitively expensive for most of the world’s population, half of whom lived on less than $2 U.S. per day in 2002. In comparison, herbal medicines can be grown from seed or gathered from nature for little or no cost.
Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants. At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants. Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 80% show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.
In 2015 the Australian Government’s Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; Herbalism was one of 17 topics evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.
In a 2010 survey of the most common 1000 plant-derived compounds, only 156 had clinical trials published. Preclinical studies (tissue-culture and animal studies) were reported for about one-half of the plant products, while 12% of the plants, although available in the Western market, had “no substantial studies” of their properties. Strong evidence was found that 5 were toxic or allergenic, so that their use ought to be discouraged or forbidden. Nine plants had considerable evidence of therapeutic effect.
According to Cancer Research UK, “there is currently no strong evidence from studies in people that herbal remedies can treat, prevent or cure cancer”.
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health funds clinical trials of the effectiveness of herbal medicines and provides fact sheets summarizing the effectiveness and side effects of many plant-derived preparations.
The use of herbal remedies is more prevalent in patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and end-stage renal disease. Multiple factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, education and social class are also shown to have association with prevalence of herbal remedies use.
A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health focused on who used complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), what was used, and why it was used. The survey was limited to adults, aged 18 years and over during 2002, living in the United States. According to this survey, herbal therapy, or use of natural products other than vitamins and minerals, was the most commonly used CAM therapy (18.9%) when all use of prayer was excluded.
Herbal remedies are very common in Europe. In Germany, herbal medications are dispensed by apothecaries (e.g., Apotheke). Prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts, or herbal teas. Herbal remedies are seen by some as a treatment to be preferred to pure medical compounds that have been industrially produced.
In India the herbal remedy is so popular that the government of India has created a separate departmentAYUSHunder the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The National Medicinal Plants Board was also established in 2000 by the Indian government in order to deal with the herbal medical system.
There are many forms in which herbs can be administered, the most common of which is in the form of a liquid that is drunk by the patienteither an herbal tea or a (possibly diluted) plant extract. Whole herb consumption is also practiced either fresh, in dried form or as fresh juice.
Several methods of standardization may be determining the amount of herbs used. One is the ratio of raw materials to solvent. However different specimens of even the same plant species may vary in chemical content. For this reason, thin layer chromatography is sometimes used by growers to assess the content of their products before use. Another method is standardization on a signal chemical.
Herbal teas, or tisanes, are the resultant liquid of extracting herbs into water, though they are made in a few different ways. Infusions are hot water extracts of herbs, such as chamomile or mint, through steeping. Decoctions are the long-term boiled extracts, usually of harder substances like roots or bark. Maceration is the old infusion of plants with
high mucilage-content, such as sage, thyme, etc. To make macerates, plants are chopped and added to cold water. They are then left to stand for 7 to 12 hours (depending on herb used). For most macerates 10 hours is used.
Tinctures are alcoholic extracts of herbs, which are generally stronger than herbal teas. Tinctures are usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol (or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water) with the herb. A completed tincture has an ethanol percentage of at least 25% (sometimes up to 90%). Herbal wine and elixirs are alcoholic extract of herbs, usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38%. Herbal wine is a maceration of herbs in wine, while an elixir is a maceration of herbs in spirits (e.g., vodka, grappa, etc.).Extracts include liquid extracts, dry extracts, and nebulisates. Liquid extracts are liquids with a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures. They are usually made by vacuum distilling tinctures. Dry extracts are extracts of plant material that are evaporated into a dry mass. They can then be further refined to a capsule or tablet. A nebulisate is a dry extract created by freeze-drying.Vinegars are prepared in the same way as tinctures, except using a solution of acetic acid as the solvent.Syrups are extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty-five parts of sugar are mixed with thirty-five parts of water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks.
The exact composition of an herbal product is influenced by the method of extraction. A tea will be rich in polar components because water is a polar solvent. Oil on the other hand is a non-polar solvent and it will absorb non-polar compounds. Alcohol lies somewhere in between.
Many herbs are applied topically to the skin in a variety of forms. Essential oil extracts can be applied to the skin, usually diluted in a carrier oil. Many essential oils can burn the skin or are simply too high dose used straight; diluting them in olive oil or another food grade oil such as almond oil can allow these to be used safely as a topical.[unreliable source?] Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions are other forms of topical delivery mechanisms. Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for topical application. Many massage oils, antibacterial salves, and wound healing compounds are made this way. One can also make a poultice or compress using the whole herb or the appropriate part of the plant, which is usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth, or just as is.
Inhalation, as in aromatherapy, can be used as a mood changing treatment to fight a sinus infection or cough , or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level (steam rather than direct inhalation here)
A number of herbs are thought to be likely to cause adverse effects. Furthermore, “adulteration, inappropriate formulation, or lack of understanding of plant and drug interactions have led to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening or lethal.” Proper double-blind clinical trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of each plant before they can be recommended for medical use. Although many consumers believe that herbal medicines are safe because they are “natural”, herbal medicines and synthetic drugs may interact, causing toxicity to the patient. Herbal remedies can also be dangerously contaminated, and herbal medicines without established efficacy, may unknowingly be used to replace medicines that do have corroborated efficacy.
Standardization of purity and dosage is not mandated in the United States, but even products made to the same specification may differ as a result of biochemical variations within a species of plant. Plants have chemical defense mechanisms against predators that can have adverse or lethal effects on humans. Examples of highly toxic herbs include poison hemlock and nightshade. They are not marketed to the public as herbs, because the risks are well known, partly due to a long and colorful history in Europe, associated with “sorcery”, “magic” and intrigue. Although not frequent, adverse reactions have been reported for herbs in widespread use. On occasion serious untoward outcomes have been linked to herb consumption. A case of major potassium depletion has been attributed to chronic licorice ingestion., and consequently professional herbalists avoid the use of licorice where they recognize that this may be a risk. Black cohosh has been implicated in a case of liver failure. Few studies are available on the safety of herbs for pregnant women, and one study found that use of complementary and alternative medicines are associated with a 30% lower ongoing pregnancy and live birth rate during fertility treatment. Examples of herbal treatments with likely cause-effect relationships with adverse events include aconite, which is often a legally restricted herb, ayurvedic remedies, broom, chaparral, Chinese herb mixtures, comfrey, herbs containing certain flavonoids, germander, guar gum, liquorice root, and pennyroyal. Examples of herbs where a high degree of confidence of a risk long term adverse effects can be asserted include ginseng, which is unpopular among herbalists for this reason, the endangered herb goldenseal, milk thistle, senna, against which herbalists generally advise and rarely use, aloe vera juice, buckthorn bark and berry, cascara sagrada bark, saw palmetto, valerian, kava, which is banned in the European Union, St. John’s wort, Khat, Betel nut, the restricted herb Ephedra, and Guarana.
There is also concern with respect to the numerous well-established interactions of herbs and drugs. In consultation with a physician, usage of herbal remedies should be clarified, as some herbal remedies have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when used in combination with various prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, just as a patient should inform a herbalist of their consumption of orthodox prescription and other medication.
For example, dangerously low blood pressure may result from the combination of an herbal remedy that lowers blood pressure together with prescription medicine that has the same effect. Some herbs may amplify the effects of anticoagulants. Certain herbs as well as common fruit interfere with cytochrome P450, an enzyme critical to much drug metabolism.
A 2013 study published in the journal BMC Medicine found that one-third of herbal supplements sampled contained no trace of the herb listed on the label. The study found products adulterated with filler including allergens such as soy, wheat, and black walnut. One bottle labeled as St. John’s Wort was found to actually contain Alexandrian senna, a laxative.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide found in 2014 that almost 20 per cent of herbal remedies surveyed were not registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, despite this being a condition for their sale. They also found that nearly 60 per cent of products surveyed had ingredients that did not match what was on the label. Out of 121 products, only 15 had ingredients that matched their TGA listing and packaging.
In 2015 the New York Attorney General issued cease and desist
letters to four major U.S. retailers (GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) who are accused of selling herbal supplements that were mislabeled and potentially dangerous. 24 products were tested by DNA barcoding as part of the investigation, all but five contained DNA that did not match the products’ labels. The investigation was prompted by the 2013 BMC study.
A herbalist is:
Herbalists must learn many skills, including the wildcrafting or cultivation of herbs, diagnosis and treatment of conditions or dispensing herbal medication, and preparations of herbal medications. Education of herbalists varies considerably in different areas of the world. Lay herbalists and traditional indigenous medicine people generally rely upon apprenticeship and recognition from their communities in lieu of formal schooling.
In some countries formalized training and minimum education standards exist, although these are not necessarily uniform within or between countries. For example, in Australia the currently self-regulated status of the profession (as of April 2008) results in different associations setting different educational standards, and subsequently recognising an educational institution or course of training. The National Herbalists Association of Australia is generally recognised as having the most rigorous professional standard within Australia. In the United Kingdom, the training of medical herbalists is done by state funded Universities. For example, Bachelor of Science degrees in herbal medicine are offered at Universities such as University of East London, Middlesex University, University of Central Lancashire, University of Westminster, University of Lincoln and Napier University in Edinburgh at the present.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health, published Quality control methods for medicinal plant materials in 1998 in order to support WHO Member States in establishing quality standards and specifications for herbal materials, within the overall context of quality assurance and control of herbal medicines.
In the European Union (EU), herbal medicines are now regulated under the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products.
In the United States, herbal remedies are regulated dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration under current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) policy for dietary supplements. Manufacturers of products falling into this category are not required to prove the safety or efficacy of their product so long as they don’t make ‘medical’ claims or imply being other than for ‘dietary supplement’ use, though the FDA may withdraw a product from sale should it prove harmful.
The National Nutritional Foods Association, the industry’s largest trade association, has run a program since 2002, examining the products and factory conditions of member companies, giving them the right to display the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) seal of approval on their products.
Some herbs, such as cannabis and coca, are outright banned in most countries though coca is legal in most of the South American countries where it is grown. The Cannabis plant is used as an herbal medicine, and as such is legal in some parts of the world. Since 2004, the sales of ephedra as a dietary supplement is prohibited in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration., and subject to Schedule III restrictions in the United Kingdom.
Native Americans medicinally used about 2,500 of the approximately 20,000 plant species that are native to North America.
Some researchers trained in both western and traditional Chinese medicine have attempted to deconstruct ancient medical texts in the light of modern science. One idea is that the yin-yang balance, at least with regard to herbs, corresponds to the pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant balance. This interpretation is supported by several investigations of the ORAC ratings of various yin and yang herbs.
In India, Ayurvedic medicine has quite complex formulas with 30 or more ingredients, including a sizable number of ingredients that have undergone “alchemical processing”, chosen to balance “Vata”, “Pitta” or “Kapha”.
In Ladakh, Lahul-Spiti and Tibet, the Tibetan Medical System is prevalent, also called the ‘Amichi Medical System’. Over 337 species of medicinal plants have been documented by C.P. Kala. Those are used by Amchis, the practitioners of this medical system.
In Tamil Nadu, Tamils have their own medicinal system now popularly called Siddha medicine. The Siddha system is entirely in the Tamil language. It contains roughly 300,000 verses covering diverse aspects of medicine. This work includes herbal, mineral and metallic compositions used as medicine. Ayurveda is in Sanskrit, but Sanskrit was not generally used as a mother tongue and hence its medicines are mostly taken from Siddha and other local traditions.
In Indonesia, especially among the Javanese, the jamu traditional herbal medicine is an age old tradition preserved for centuries. Jamu is thought to have originated in the Mataram Kingdom era, some 1300 years ago. The bas-reliefs on Borobudur depicts the image of people ground herbs with stone mortar and pestle, drink seller, physician and masseuse treating their clients. All of these scenes might be interpreted as a traditional herbal medicine and health-related treatments in ancient Java. The Madhawapura inscription from Majapahit period mentioned a specific profession of herbs mixer and combiner (herbalist), called Acaraki. The medicine book from Mataram dated from circa 1700 contains 3,000 entries of jamu herbal recipes, while Javanese classical literature Serat Centhini (1814) describes some jamu herbal concoction recipes.
Though highly possible influenced by Indian Ayurveda system, Indonesia is a vast archipelago with numerous indigenous plants not to be found in India, which include plants similar to Australia beyond the Wallace Line. Indonesians might experimented and figure out the medicinal uses of these native herbal plants. Jamu may vary from region to region, and often not written down, especially in remote areas of the country. Although primarily herbal, materials acquired from animals, such as honey, royal jelly, milk and ayam kampung eggs are also often used in jamu.
According to Eisenburg: The Chinese and Western medical models are like two frames of reference in which identical phenomena are studied. Neither frame of reference provides an unobstructed view of health and illness. Each is incomplete and in need of refinement.” Specifically, the traditional Chinese medical model could effect change on the recognized, and expected, phenomena of detachment to patients as people and estrangement unique to the clinical and impersonal relationships between patient and physician of the Western school of medicine.
Four approaches to the use of plants as medicine include:
1. The magical/shamanicAlmost all societies, with the exception of cultures influenced by Western-style industrialization, recognize this kind of use. The practitioner is regarded as endowed with gifts or powers that allow him/her to use herbs in a way that is hidden from the average person, and the herbs are said to affect the spirit or soul of the person.
2. The energeticThis approach includes the major systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Unani. He
rbs are regarded as having actions in terms of their energies and affecting the energies of the body. The practitioner may have extensive training, and ideally be sensitive to energy, but need not have supernatural powers.
3. The functional dynamicThis approach was used by early physiomedical practitioners, whose doctrine forms the basis of contemporary practice in the UK. Herbs have a functional action, which is not necessarily linked to a physical compound, although often to a physiological function, but there is no explicit recourse to concepts involving energy.
4. The chemicalModern practitioners – called Phytotherapists – attempt to explain herb actions in terms of their chemical constituents. It is generally assumed that the specific combination of secondary metabolites in the plant are responsible for the activity claimed or demonstrated, a concept called synergy.
Herbalists tend to use extracts from parts of plants, such as the roots or leaves but not isolate particular phytochemicals. Pharmaceutical medicine prefers single ingredients on the grounds that dosage can be more easily quantified. It is also possible to patent single compounds, and therefore generate income. Herbalists often reject the notion of a single active ingredient, arguing that the different phytochemicals present in many herbs will interact to enhance the therapeutic effects of the herb and dilute toxicity. Furthermore, they argue that a single ingredient may contribute to multiple effects. Herbalists deny that herbal synergism can be duplicated with synthetic chemicals They argue that phytochemical interactions and trace components may alter the drug response in ways that cannot currently be replicated with a combination of a few potentially active ingredients. Pharmaceutical researchers recognize the concept of drug synergism but note that clinical trials may be used to investigate the efficacy of a particular herbal preparation, provided the formulation of that herb is consistent.
In specific cases the claims of synergy and multifunctionality have been supported by science. The open question is how widely both can be generalized. Herbalists would argue that cases of synergy can be widely generalized, on the basis of their interpretation of evolutionary history, not necessarily shared by the pharmaceutical community. Plants are subject to similar selection pressures as humans and therefore they must develop resistance to threats such as radiation, reactive oxygen species and microbial attack in order to survive. Optimal chemical defenses have been selected for and have thus developed over millions of years. Human diseases are multifactorial and may be treated by consuming the chemical defences that they believe to be present in herbs. Bacteria, inflammation, nutrition and ROS (reactive oxygen species) may all play a role in arterial disease. Herbalists claim a single herb may simultaneously address several of these factors. Likewise a factor such as ROS may underlie more than one condition. In short herbalists view their field as the study of a web of relationships rather than a quest for single cause and a single cure for a single condition.
In selecting herbal treatments herbalists may use forms of information that are not applicable to pharmacists. Because herbs can moonlight as vegetables, teas or spices they have a huge consumer base and large-scale epidemiological studies become feasible. Ethnobotanical studies are another source of information. For example, when indigenous peoples from geographically dispersed areas use closely related herbs for the same purpose that is taken as supporting evidence for its efficacy. Herbalists contend that historical medical records and herbals are underutilized resources. They favor the use of convergent information in assessing the medical value of plants. An example would be when in-vitro activity is consistent with traditional use.
Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject. Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chickens, sheep, butterflies, and chimpanzee.The habit has been shown to be a physical means of purging intestinal parasites. Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of Aframomum melegueta, a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay. Current research focuses on the possibility that this plants also protects gorillas from fibrosing cardiomyopathy which has a devastating effect on captive animals.
Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids. Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antihelminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.
Posted: July 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm
Feature Video now available The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Women of African Ancestry
On Tuesday, June 7, Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, M.D., F.A.C.P., presented The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer in Women of African Ancestry, the final lecture in the 2016 Genomics and Health Disparities Lecture Series. Dr. Olufunmilayo is director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Read more | Watch the video
The NHGRI History of Genomics Program closed its six-part seminar series featuring Human Genome Project (HGP) participants who helped launch the HGP with the talk: The Genome is for Life, by David Bentley, D.Phil., on Thursday, May 26th. Dr. Bentley is vice president and chief scientist at Illumina Inc. His long-term research interest is the study of human sequence variation and its impact on health and disease. Read more about the series
In this issue of The Genomics Landscape, we feature the use of model organisms to explore the function of genes implicated in human disease. This month’s issue also highlights a recently completed webinar series to help professionals in the health insurance industry understand genetic testing, new funding for training in genomic medicine research, and NHGRI’s Genome Statute and Legislation Database. Read more
Cristina Kapusti, M.S., has been named chief of the Policy and Program Analysis Branch (PPAB) at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). In her new role, she will oversee policy activities and evaluation as well as program reporting and assessment to support institute priorities. PPAB is a part of the Division of Policy, Communications and Education (DPCE), whose mission is to promote the understanding and application of genomic knowledge to advance human health and society. Read more
Last Updated: July 7, 2016
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About NHGRI – Genome.gov | National Human Genome Research …
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Genomics is a discipline in genetics that applies recombinant DNA, DNA sequencing methods, and bioinformatics to sequence, assemble, and analyze the function and structure of genomes (the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism). Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research to understand even the most complex biological systems such as the brain. The field includes efforts to determine the entire DNA sequence of organisms and fine-scale genetic mapping. The field also includes studies of intragenomic phenomena such as heterosis, epistasis, pleiotropy and other interactions between loci and alleles within the genome. In contrast, the investigation of the roles and functions of single genes is a primary focus of molecular biology or genetics and is a common topic of modern medical and biological research. Research of single genes does not fall into the definition of genomics unless the aim of this genetic, pathway, and functional information analysis is to elucidate its effect on, place in, and response to the entire genomes networks.
From the Greek gen, “gene” (gamma, epsilon, nu, epsilon) meaning “become, create, creation, birth”, and subsequent variants: genealogy, genesis, genetics, genic, genomere, genotype, genus etc. While the word genome (from the German Genom, attributed to Hans Winkler) was in use in English as early as 1926, the term genomics was coined by Tom Roderick, a geneticist at the Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, Maine), over beer at a meeting held in Maryland on the mapping of the human genome in 1986.
Following Rosalind Franklin’s confirmation of the helical structure of DNA, James D. Watson and Francis Crick’s publication of the structure of DNA in 1953 and Fred Sanger’s publication of the Amino acid sequence of insulin in 1955, nucleic acid sequencing became a major target of early molecular biologists. In 1964, Robert W. Holley and colleagues published the first nucleic acid sequence ever determined, the ribonucleotide sequence of alanine transfer RNA. Extending this work, Marshall Nirenberg and Philip Leder revealed the triplet nature of the genetic code and were able to determine the sequences of 54 out of 64 codons in their experiments. In 1972, Walter Fiers and his team at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the University of Ghent (Ghent, Belgium) were the first to determine the sequence of a gene: the gene for Bacteriophage MS2 coat protein. Fiers’ group expanded on their MS2 coat protein work, determining the complete nucleotide-sequence of bacteriophage MS2-RNA (whose genome encodes just four genes in 3569 base pairs [bp]) and Simian virus 40 in 1976 and 1978, respectively.
In addition to his seminal work on the amino acid sequence of insulin, Frederick Sanger and his colleagues played a key role in the development of DNA sequencing techniques that enabled the establishment of comprehensive genome sequencing projects. In 1975, he and Alan Coulson published a sequencing procedure using DNA polymerase with radiolabelled nucleotides that he called the Plus and Minus technique. This involved two closely related methods that generated short oligonucleotides with defined 3′ termini. These could be fractionated by electrophoresis on a polyacrylamide gel and visualised using autoradiography. The procedure could sequence up to 80 nucleotides in one go and was a big improvement, but was still very laborious. Nevertheless, in 1977 his group was able to sequence most of the 5,386 nucleotides of the single-stranded bacteriophage X174, completing the first fully sequenced DNA-based genome. The refinement of the Plus and Minus method resulted in the chain-termination, or Sanger method (see below), which formed the basis of the techniques of DNA sequencing, genome mapping, data storage, and bioinformatic analysis most widely used in the following quarter-century of research. In the same year Walter Gilbert and Allan Maxam of Harvard University independently developed the Maxam-Gilbert method (also known as the chemical method) of DNA sequencing, involving the preferential cleavage of DNA at known bases, a less efficient method. For their groundbreaking work in the sequencing of nucleic acids, Gilbert and Sanger shared half the 1980 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Paul Berg (recombinant DNA).
The advent of these technologies resulted in a rapid intensification in the scope and speed of completion of genome sequencing projects. The first complete genome sequence of an eukaryotic organelle, the human mitochondrion (16,568 bp, about 16.6 kb [kilobase]), was reported in 1981, and the first chloroplast genomes followed in 1986. In 1992, the first eukaryotic chromosome, chromosome III of brewer’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (315 kb) was sequenced. The first free-living organism to be sequenced was that of Haemophilus influenzae (1.8 Mb [megabase]) in 1995. The following year a consortium of researchers from laboratories across North America, Europe, and Japan announced the completion of the first complete genome sequence of a eukaryote, S. cerevisiae (12.1 Mb), and since then genomes have continued being sequenced at an exponentially growing pace. As of October 2011[update], the complete sequences are available for: 2,719 viruses, 1,115 archaea and bacteria, and 36 eukaryotes, of which about half are fungi.
Most of the microorganisms whose genomes have been completely sequenced are problematic pathogens, such as Haemophilus influenzae, which has resulted in a pronounced bias in their phylogenetic distribution compared to the breadth of microbial diversity. Of the other sequenced species, most were chosen because they were well-studied model organisms or promised to become good models. Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) has long been an important model organism for the eukaryotic cell, while the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been a very important tool (notably in early pre-molecular genetics). The worm Caenorhabditis elegans is an often used simple model for multicellular organisms. The zebrafish Brachydanio rerio is used for many developmental studies on the molecular level, and the flower Arabidopsis thaliana is a model organism for flowering plants. The Japanese pufferfish (Takifugu rubripes) and the spotted green pufferfish (Tetraodon nigroviridis) are interesting because of their small and compact genomes, which contain very little noncoding DNA compared to most species. The mammals dog (Canis familiaris), brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), mouse (Mus musculus), and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) are all important model animals in medical research.
A rough draft of the human genome was completed by the Human Genome Project in early 2001, creating much fanfare. This project, completed in 2003, sequenced the entire genome for one specific person, and by 2007 this sequence was declared “finished” (less than one error in 20,000 bases and all chromosomes assembled). In the years since then, the genomes of many other individuals have been sequenced, partly under the auspices of the 1000 Genomes Project, which announced the sequencing of 1,092 genomes in October 2012. Completion of this project was made possible by the development of dramatically more efficient sequencing technologies and required the commitment of significant bioinformatics resources from a large international collaboration. The continued analysis of human genomic data has profound political and social repercussions for human societies.
The English-language neologism omics informally refers to a field of study in biology ending in -omics, such as genomics, proteomics or metabolomics. The related suffix -ome is used to address the objects of study of such fields, such as the genome, proteome or metabolome respectively. The suffix -ome as used in molecular biology refers to a totality of some sort; similarly omics has come to refer generally to the study of large, comprehensive biological data sets. While the growth in the use of the term has led some scientists (Jonathan Eisen, among others) to claim that it has been oversold, it reflects the change in orientation towards the quantitative analysis of complete or near-complete assortment of all the constituents of a system. In the study of symbioses, for example, researchers which were once limited to the study of a single gene product can now simultaneously compare the total complement of several types of biological molecules.
After an organism has been selected, genome projects involve three components: the sequencing of DNA, the assembly of that sequence to create a representation of the original chromosome, and the annotation and analysis of that representation.
Historically, sequencing was done in sequencing centers, centralized facilities (ranging from large independent institutions such as Joint Genome Institute which sequence dozens of terabases a year, to local molecular biology core facilities) which contain research laboratories with the costly instrumentation and technical support necessary. As sequencing technology continues to improve, however, a new generation of effective fast turnaround benchtop sequencers has come within reach of the average academic laboratory. On the whole, genome sequencing approaches fall into two broad categories, shotgun and high-throughput (aka next-generation) sequencing.
Shotgun sequencing (Sanger sequencing is used interchangeably) is a sequencing method designed for analysis of DNA sequences longer than 1000 base pairs, up to and including entire chromosomes. It is named by analogy with the rapidly expanding, quasi-random firing pattern of a shotgun. Since the chain termination method of DNA sequencing can only be used for fairly short strands (100 to 1000 base pairs), longer DNA sequences must be broken into random small segments which are then sequenced to obtain reads. Multiple overlapping reads for the target DNA are obtained by performing several rounds of this fragmentation and sequencing. Computer programs then use the overlapping ends of different reads to assemble them into a continuous sequence. Shotgun sequencing is a random sampling process, requiring over-sampling to ensure a given nucleotide is represented in the reconstructed sequence; the average number of reads by which a genome is over-sampled is referred to as coverage.
For much of its history, the technology underlying shotgun sequencing was the classical chain-termination method, which is based on the selective incorporation of chain-terminating dideoxynucleotides by DNA polymerase during in vitro DNA replication. Developed by Frederick Sanger and colleagues in 1977, it was the most widely used sequencing method for approximately 25 years. More recently, Sanger sequencing has been supplanted by “Next-Gen” sequencing methods, especially for large-scale, automated genome analyses. However, the Sanger method remains in wide use in 2013, primarily for smaller-scale projects and for obtaining especially long contiguous DNA sequence reads (>500 nucleotides). Chain-termination methods require a single-stranded DNA template, a DNA primer, a DNA polymerase, normal deoxynucleosidetriphosphates (dNTPs), and modified nucleotides (dideoxyNTPs) that terminate DNA strand elongation. These chain-terminating nucleotides lack a 3′-OH group required for the formation of a phosphodiester bond between two nucleotides, causing DNA polymerase to cease extension of DNA when a ddNTP is incorporated. The ddNTPs may be radioactively or fluorescently labelled for detection in automated sequencing machines. Typically, these automated DNA-sequencing instruments (DNA sequencers) can sequence up to 96 DNA samples in a single batch (run) in up to 48 runs a day.
The high demand for low-cost sequencing has driven the development of high-throughput sequencing (or next-generation sequencing [NGS]) technologies that parallelize the sequencing process, producing thousands or millions of sequences at once. High-throughput sequencing technologies are intended to lower the cost of DNA sequencing beyond what is possible with standard dye-terminator methods. In ultra-high-throughput sequencing as many as 500,000 sequencing-by-synthesis operations may be run in parallel.
Solexa, now part of Illumina, developed a sequencing method based on reversible dye-terminators technology acquired from Manteia Predictive Medicine in 2004. This technology had been invented and developed in late 1996 at Glaxo-Welcome’s Geneva Biomedical Research Institute (GBRI), by Dr. Pascal Mayer and Dr Laurent Farinelli. In this method, DNA molecules and primers are first attached on a slide and amplified with polymerase so that local clonal colonies, initially coined “DNA colonies”, are formed. To determine the sequence, four types of reversible terminator bases (RT-bases) are added and non-incorporated nucleotides are washed away. Unlike pyrosequencing, the DNA chains are extended one nucleotide at a time and image acquisition can be performed at a delayed moment, allowing for very large arrays of DNA colonies to be captured by sequential images taken from a single camera.
Decoupling the enzymatic reaction and the image capture allows for optimal throughput and theoretically unlimited sequencing capacity. With an optimal configuration, the ultimately reachable instrument throughput is thus dictated solely by the analogic-to-digital conversion rate of the camera, multiplied by the number of cameras and divided by the number of pixels per DNA colony required for visualizing them optimally (approximately 10 pixels/colony). In 2012, with cameras operating at more than 10MHz A/D conversion rates and available optics, fluidics and enzymatics, throughput can be multiples of 1 million nucleotides/second, corresponding roughly to 1 human genome equivalent at 1x coverage per hour per instrument, and 1 human genome re-sequenced (at approx. 30x) per day per instrument (equipped with a single camera). The camera takes images of the fluorescently labeled nucleotides, then the dye along with the terminal 3′ blocker is chemically removed from the DNA, allowing the next cycle.
Ion Torrent Systems Inc. developed a sequencing approach based on standard DNA replication chemistry. This technology measures the release of a hydrogen ion each time a base is incorporated. A microwell containing template DNA is flooded with a single nucleotide, if the nucleotide is complementary to the template strand it will be incorporated and a hydrogen ion will be released. This release triggers an ISFET ion sensor. If a homopolymer is present in the template sequence multiple nucleotides will be incorporated in a single flood cycle, and the detected electrical signal will be proportionally higher.
Overlapping reads form contigs; contigs and gaps of known length form scaffolds.
Paired end reads of next generation sequencing data mapped to a reference genome.
Multiple, fragmented sequence reads must be assembled together on the basis of their overlapping areas.
Sequence assembly refers to aligning and merging fragments of a much longer DNA sequence in order to reconstruct the original sequence. This is needed as current DNA sequencing technology cannot read whole genomes as a continuous sequence, but rather reads small pieces of between 20 and 1000 bases, depending on the technology used. Typically the short fragments, called reads, result from shotgun sequencing genomic DNA, or gene transcripts (ESTs).
Assembly can be broadly categorized into two approaches: de novo assembly, for genomes which are not similar to any sequenced in the past, and comparative assembly, which uses the existing sequence of a closely related organism as a reference during assembly. Relative to comparative assembly, de novo assembly is computationally difficult (NP-hard), making it less favorable for short-read NGS technologies.
Finished genomes are defined as having a single contiguous sequence with no ambiguities representing each replicon.
The DNA sequence assembly alone is of little value without additional analysis.Genome annotation is the process of attaching biological information to sequences, and consists of three main steps:
Automatic annotation tools try to perform these steps in silico, as opposed to manual annotation (a.k.a. curation) which involves human expertise and potential experimental verification. Ideally, these approaches co-exist and complement each other in the same annotation pipeline (also see below).
Traditionally, the basic level of annotation is using BLAST for finding similarities, and then annotating genomes based on homologues. More recently, additional information is added to the annotation platform. The additional information allows manual annotators to deconvolute discrepancies between genes that are given the same annotation. Some databases use genome context information, similarity scores, experimental data, and integrations of other resources to provide genome annotations through their Subsystems approach. Other databases (e.g. Ensembl) rely on both curated data sources as well as a range of software tools in their automated genome annotation pipeline.Structural annotation consists of the identification of genomic elements, primarily ORFs and their localisation, or gene structure. Functional annotation consists of attaching biological information to genomic elements.
The need for reproducibility and efficient management of the large amount of data associated with genome projects mean that computational pipelines have important applications in genomics.
Functional genomics is a field of molecular biology that attempts to make use of the vast wealth of data produced by genomic projects (such as genome sequencing projects) to describe gene (and protein) functions and interactions. Functional genomics focuses on the dynamic aspects such as gene transcription, translation, and proteinprotein interactions, as opposed to the static aspects of the genomic information such as DNA sequence or structures. Functional genomics attempts to answer questions about the function of DNA at the levels of genes, RNA transcripts, and protein products. A key characteristic of functional genomics studies is their genome-wide approach to these questions, generally involving high-throughput methods rather than a more traditional gene-by-gene approach.
A major branch of genomics is still concerned with sequencing the genomes of various organisms, but the knowledge of full genomes has created the possibility for the field of functional genomics, mainly concerned with patterns of gene expression during various conditions. The most important tools here are microarrays and bioinformatics.
Structural genomics seeks to describe the 3-dimensional structure of every protein encoded by a given genome. This genome-based approach allows for a high-throughput method of structure determination by a combination of experimental and modeling approaches. The principal difference between structural genomics and traditional structural prediction is that structural genomics attempts to determine the structure of every protein encoded by the genome, rather than focusing on one particular protein. With full-genome sequences available, structure prediction can be done more quickly through a combination of experimental and modeling approaches, especially because the availability of large numbers of sequenced genomes and previously solved protein structures allow scientists to model protein structure on the structures of previously solved homologs. Structural genomics involves taking a large number of approaches to structure determination, including experimental methods using genomic sequences or modeling-based approaches based on sequence or structural homology to a protein of known structure or based on chemical and physical principles for a protein with no homology to any known structure. As opposed to traditional structural biology, the determination of a protein structure through a structural genomics effort often (but not always) comes before anything is known regarding the protein function. This raises new challenges in structural bioinformatics, i.e. determining protein function from its 3D structure.
Epigenomics is the study of the complete set of epigenetic modifications on the genetic material of a cell, known as the epigenome. Epigenetic modifications are reversible modifications on a cells DNA or histones that affect gene expression without altering the DNA sequence (Russell 2010 p.475). Two of the most characterized epigenetic modifications are DNA methylation and histone modification. Epigenetic modifications play an important role in gene expression and regulation, and are involved in numerous cellular processes such as in differentiation/development and tumorigenesis. The study of epigenetics on a global level has been made possible only recently through the adaptation of genomic high-throughput assays.
Metagenomics is the study of metagenomes, genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples. The broad field may also be referred to as environmental genomics, ecogenomics or community genomics. While traditional microbiology and microbial genome sequencing rely upon cultivated clonal cultures, early environmental gene sequencing cloned specific genes (often the 16S rRNA gene) to produce a profile of diversity in a natural sample. Such work revealed that the vast majority of microbial biodiversity had been missed by cultivation-based methods. Recent studies use “shotgun” Sanger sequencing or massively parallel pyrosequencing to get largely unbiased samples of all genes from all the members of the sampled communities. Because of its power to reveal the previously hidden diversity of microscopic life, metagenomics offers a powerful lens for viewing the microbial world that has the potential to revolutionize understanding of the entire living world.
Bacteriophages have played and continue to play a key role in bacterial genetics and molecular biology. Historically, they were used to define gene structure and gene regulation. Also the first genome to be sequenced was a bacteriophage. However, bacteriophage research did not lead the genomics revolution, which is clearly dominated by bacterial genomics. Only very recently has the study of bacteriophage genomes become prominent, thereby enabling researchers to understand the mechanisms underlying phage evolution. Bacteriophage genome sequences can be obtained through direct sequencing of isolated bacteriophages, but can also be derived as part of microbial genomes. Analysis of bacterial genomes has shown that a substantial amount of microbial DNA consists of prophage sequences and prophage-like elements. A detailed database mining of these sequences offers insights into the role of prophages in shaping the bacterial genome.
At present there are 24 cyanobacteria for which a total genome sequence is available. 15 of these cyanobacteria come from the marine environment. These are six Prochlorococcus strains, seven marine Synechococcus strains, Trichodesmium erythraeum IMS101 and Crocosphaera watsonii WH8501. Several studies have demonstrated how these sequences could be used very successfully to infer important ecological and physiological characteristics of marine cyanobacteria. However, there are many more genome projects currently in progress, amongst those there are further Prochlorococcus and marine Synechococcus isolates, Acaryochloris and Prochloron, the N2-fixing filamentous cyanobacteria Nodularia spumigena, Lyngbya aestuarii and Lyngbya majuscula, as well as bacteriophages infecting marine cyanobaceria. Thus, the growing body of genome information can also be tapped in a more general way to address global problems by applying a comparative approach. Some new and exciting examples of progress in this field are the identification of genes for regulatory RNAs, insights into the evolutionary origin of photosynthesis, or estimation of the contribution of horizontal gene transfer to the genomes that have been analyzed.
Genomics has provided applications in many fields, including medicine, biotechnology, anthropology and other social sciences.
Next-generation genomic technologies allow clinicians and biomedical researchers to drastically increase the amount of genomic data collected on large study populations. When combined with new informatics approaches that integrate many kinds of data with genomic data in disease research, this allows researchers to better understand the genetic bases of drug response and disease.
The growth of genomic knowledge has enabled increasingly sophisticated applications of synthetic biology. In 2010 researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute announced the creation of a partially synthetic species of bacterium, Mycoplasma laboratorium, derived from the genome of Mycoplasma genitalium.
Conservationists can use the information gathered by genomic sequencing in order to better evaluate genetic factors key to species conservation, such as the genetic diversity of a population or whether an individual is heterozygous for a recessive inherited genetic disorder. By using genomic data to evaluate the effects of evolutionary processes and to detect patterns in variation throughout a given population, conservationists can formulate plans to aid a given species without as many variables left unknown as those unaddressed by standard genetic approaches.
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Posted: July 8, 2016 at 7:56 am
Alternative title: Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum
Ayn Rand, original name Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum (born February 2, 1905, St. Petersburg, Russiadied March 6, 1982, New York, New York, U.S.) Russian-born American writer whose commercially successful novels promoting individualism and laissez-faire capitalism were influential among conservatives and libertarians and popular among generations of young people in the United States from the mid-20th century.
Her father, Zinovy Rosenbaum, was a prosperous pharmacist. After being tutored at home, Alissa Rosenbaum, the eldest of three children, was enrolled in a progressive school, where she excelled academically but was socially isolated. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, her fathers shop was confiscated by communist authorities, an event she deeply resented. As a student at Leningrad State University, she studied history and became acquainted with the works of Plato and Aristotle. After graduating in 1924, she enrolled in the State Institute for Cinematography, hoping to become a screenwriter.
The arrival of a letter from cousins in Chicago gave her an opportunity to leave the country on the pretext of gaining expertise that she could apply in the Soviet film industry. Upon her arrival in the United States in 1926, she changed her name to Ayn Rand. (The first name, which rhymes with pine, was inspired by the name of a Finnish writer, whom she never identified, and the surname she described as an abbreviation of Rosenbaum.) After six months in Chicago she moved to Hollywood, where a fortuitous encounter with the producer Cecil B. DeMille led to work as a movie extra and eventually to a job as a screenwriter. In 1929 she married the actor Frank OConnor. Soon hired as a filing clerk in the wardrobe department of RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., she rose to head of the department within a year, meanwhile writing stories, plays, and film scenarios in her spare time. She became an American citizen in 1931.
Rands first successful play, Night of January 16th (1933; originally titled Penthouse Legend), was a paean to individualism in the form of a courtroom drama. In 1934 she and OConnor moved to New York City so that she could oversee the plays production on Broadway. That year she also wrote Ideal, about a self-centred film star on the run from the law, first as a novel and then as a play. However, she shelved both versions. The play was not produced until 1989, and the novel was not published until 2015. Her first published novel, We the Living (1936), was a romantic tragedy in which Soviet totalitarianism epitomized the inherent evils of collectivism, which she understood as the subordination of individual interests to those of the state. A subsequent novella, Anthem (1938), portrayed a future collectivist dystopia in which the concept of the self and even the word I have been lost.
Rand spent more than seven years working on her first major work, The Fountainhead (1943), the story of a handsome architectural genius whose individualism and integrity are evinced in his principled dedication to his own happiness. The hero, Howard Roark, blows up a public housing project he had designed after it is altered against his wishes by government bureaucrats. On trial for his crime, he delivers a lengthy speech in his own defense in which he argues for individualism over collectivism and egoism over altruism (the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self). The jury votes unanimously to acquit him. Despite generally bad reviews, the book attracted readers through word of mouth and eventually became a best seller. Rand sold it to Warner Brothers studio and wrote the screenplay for the film, which was released in 1949.
Having returned to Los Angeles with OConnor to work on the script for The Fountainhead, Rand signed a contract to work six months a year as a screenwriter for the independent producer Hal Wallis. In 1945 she began sketches for her next novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957; film part 1, 2011, part 2, 2012, part 3, 2014), which is generally considered her masterpiece. The book depicts a future United States on the verge of economic collapse after years of collectivist misrule, under which productive and creative citizens (primarily industrialists, scientists, and artists) have been exploited to benefit an undeserving population of moochers and incompetents. The hero, John Galt, a handsome and supremely self-interested physicist and inventor, leads a band of elite producers and creators in a strike designed to deprive the economy of their leadership and thereby force the government to respect their economic freedom. From their redoubt in Colorado, Galts Gulch, they watch as the national economy and the collectivist social system are destroyed. As the elite emerge from the Gulch in the novels final scene, Galt raises his hand over the desolate earth andtrace[s] in space the sign of the dollar.
Atlas Shrugged was notable for making explicit the philosophical assumptions that underlay The Fountainhead, which Rand described as only an overture to the later work. In an appendix to Atlas Shrugged, Rand described her systematic philosophy, which she called objectivism, as in essencethe concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
Although the book was attacked by critics from across the political spectrum for its perceived immorality and misanthropy and its overt hostility to religion (Rand was an atheist), it was an instant best seller. It was especially well received by business leaders, many of whom were impressed by its moral justification of capitalism and delighted to think of their occupations as noble and virtuous. Like The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged also appealed widely to young people through its extreme romanticism, its accessible and comprehensive philosophy, its rejection of traditional authority and convention, and its implicit invitation to the reader to join the ranks of the elite by modeling himself on the storys hero.
In 1950 Rand agreed to meet a young admirer, Nathan Blumenthal, on the basis of his several articulate fan letters. The two established an immediate rapport, and Blumenthal and his girlfriend, Barbara Weidman, became Rands friends as well as her intellectual followers. In 1951 the couple moved to New York, and Rand and OConnor soon followed. There the Brandens, as Nathan and Barbara called themselves after their marriage in 1953, introduced Rand to their friends and relatives, some of whom later attended regular meetings at Rands apartment for discussion and to read newly written chapters of Atlas Shrugged. The group, which called itself the Class of 43 (a reference to the publication date of The Fountainhead) or (ironically) the Collective, included Alan Greenspan, an economics consultant who would later head the presidents Council of Economic Advisers (197477) and serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve (19872006). Among members of the Collective Nathan Branden was unquestionably Rands favourite. She openly acknowledged him as her intellectual heir and formally designated him as such in the afterword of Atlas Shrugged, which she co-dedicated to him and to OConnor.
In the late 1950s, with Rands permission, Branden established a business designed to teach the basic principles of objectivism to sympathetic readers of Rands novels. The Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI), as it was later called, offered courses in objectivism in New York and distributed tape-recorded lectures by Branden to objectivist centers in various other cities. Despite its outward appearance as an educational institution, NBI did not permit its students to think critically about objectivism or to develop objectivist ideas in novel ways. Through the success of NBI, Branden would eventually become the public guardian of objectivist orthodoxy against innovation or unauthorized borrowing by objectivist sympathizers, especially among the growing student right. In 1962 Branden and Rand launched the monthly Objectivist Newsletter (renamed The Objectivist in 1966). Meanwhile, Rands fame grew apace with the brisk sales of her novels. She was invited to speak at numerous colleges and universities and was interviewed on television talk shows and on the news program 60 Minutes. Growing into her role as a public intellectual, she published her first work of nonfiction, For the New Intellectual, largely a collection of philosophical passages from her fiction, in 1961. The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966) were drawn mostly from lectures and newsletter articles.
In 1968 Rand learned that Branden, with whom she had been having an intermittent affair (with their spouses knowledge) since 1954, was involved in a romantic relationship with a younger woman. Accusing him of betraying objectivist principles, she stripped him of his partnership in The Objectivist and demanded that he surrender control of NBI, which was soon dissolved. The closing of the institute freed various self-described objectivists to publicly develop their own interpretations of Rands philosophyall of which, however, she rejected as perversions or plagiarism of her ideas. She was especially incensed at the use of objectivist vocabulary by young libertarians, whom she accused of disregarding morality and flirting with anarchism. Meanwhile, Brandens status as Rands favourite disciple was assumed by Leonard Peikoff, an original member of the Collective whom she would eventually designate as her intellectual and legal heir.
In 1971 Rand ceased publication of The Objectivist and replaced it with the fortnightly Ayn Rand Letter, which appeared with increasing irregularity until 1976. In 1974 she underwent surgery for lung cancer. Although she recovered, she never again had the energy to pursue large-scale writing projects. In 1979 she published Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, a collection of philosophical articles originally written in 1967. She was working on an adaptation of Atlas Shrugged for a television miniserieseventually unrealizedwhen she died.
Rand was continually frustrated by her failure to gain acceptance among academic philosophers, most of whom dismissed (or were simply unaware of) her work. This neglect, which she attributed to collectivist bias and incompetence, was partly due to the fictional form in which the best-known statements of her philosophy appeared, which necessarily rendered them imprecise by professional standards. Other factors were her idiosyncratic interpretation of the history of Western philosophy, her tendency to rely, even in her nonfiction works, on broad ad hominem attacks, and her general unwillingness to tolerate disagreement with her views among those with whom she associated.
In 1986 Barbara Branden published a memoir, The Passion of Ayn Rand, that disclosed Rands affair with Nathan and revealed unflattering details of her relations with members of the Collective and others. Despite the resulting damage to her reputation, her novels continued to enjoy large sales, and she retained a loyal following among conservatives and libertarians, including some high-ranking members of the Ronald Reagan administration (the most notable being Greenspan). In the 1990s and 2000s her works undoubtedly contributed to the increased popularity of libertarianism in the United States, and from 2009 she was an iconic figure in the antigovernment Tea Party movement. It is for these specifically political influences, rather than for her contributions to literature or philosophy, that she is likely to be remembered by future generations.
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